Jeff Burton to serve as grand marshal at Lebanon I-44 Speedway, while also cheering on 13-year-old son Harrison

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NBCSN’s own Jeff Burton loves short track racing – after all, that’s where he cut his racing teeth growing up in southern Virginia.

So it’s no surprise that Burton, who has long had the nickname “The Mayor of NASCAR,” has agreed to be Grand Marshal for the 2nd annual Mercy Masters of the Pro’s 144 at Lebanon I-44 Speedway in Lebanon, Mo., on May 17.

Not only will Burton fulfill his Grand Marshal duties, which includes handing over a check for $8,000 for the winner of the Pro Late Model main event, he’ll also be on hand to watch 13-year-old son Harrison compete in both the Pro Late Model and Super Late Model events that evening.

It’s pretty clear the apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree: Harrison finished second in the 2014 World Series of Asphalt Racing this season during NASCAR’s Speedweeks in February at nearby New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway, earning two wins in the week’s worth of racing.

“We are very excited to compete in what has become one of the marquee pro late model events in the country and I was honored to be asked to act as Grand Marshal of the race,” Jeff Burton said in a track-issued media release.

In last year’s inaugural 1st Annual Mercy Masters of the Pro’s 144, Chase Elliott – who has literally exploded onto the NASCAR Nationwide Series scene this year with two wins already – set a new Pro Late Model track record (14.344 seconds) en route to the overall victory on the 3/8-mile high-banked surface at I-44 Speedway.

“Our 2013 event set the bar so high and we are very blessed to have a great partner like Mercy Hospitals as a partner,” Speedway general manager Kevin Greven said. “Jeff Burton, The Mayor of NASCAR, was very gracious to come in as our grand marshal and I am very excited to see his son Harrison entered in the event.”

The elder Burton is wrapping up a 20-year career in Sprint Cup this season, driving part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing as well as serving as an in-studio analyst for NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA. He’ll become part of the NASCAR on NBC race coverage broadcast team when NBC and NBCSN take over for outgoing ESPN and TNT next season.

Check out the video below of Harrison’s post-race interview after one of his wins earlier this year at New Smyrna.

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Racing Safety United aims to reduce the risk of injury to drivers

Racing Safety United
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Racing is an inherently dangerous sport.

The Racing Safety United (RSU) alliance aims to reduce some of that risk with the formation of a multi-discipline advocacy group that includes all major stakeholders of the sport: sanctioning bodies, drivers, track owners and equipment manufacturers – just to name a few of the many businesses that impact a driver’s welfare once they strap into the seat of a racecar.

Originally spearheaded by sports car driver RJ Valentine, the alliance initially intends to focus on track safety. Because expenses can be razor thin for short tracks, a financial aid program is in the works to help with safety upgrades.

“As a racer, I’ve witnessed a lot of horrible crashes and it always astounds me that, for the most part, the motorsports community continues to accept it, including drivers,” Valentine said in a press release. “Because safety improvement adoption is slow, I realized we need support from constituents in all sectors of motorsports to make any real changes happen.

“Initially, track safety is one of RSU’s top priorities, mainly because it receives the least amount of attention. However, we intend to address all safety areas from helmets to driver education.”

RSU’s first official meeting is scheduled on December 6th during the PRI Show to discuss and prioritize safety initiatives.

The RSU is currently made up of 30 members including former NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher, Flying Lizard owner Darren Law, Randy Lajoie – owner of The Joie of Seating, sportscar driver Andrew Pilgrim and journalist Dick Berggren.

More information can be found on the RSU site.